Chapter 19: Survive

Survive. Sopravivere. Sourvivre.

To overcome life. To outlive. To get there. To be alive….still.

They both knew it would be the last time they saw each other. Her Granma was still healthy but her husband was gone and she was tired. Granma held her hand tight and led her to her boudoir. Her husband had loved her and bought her every precious stone she’d ever wanted. She opened the overflowing jewellery cabinet and signalled to her to take one of the elaborate diamond rings. Her eyes filled up and she took a cheap amethyst ring which probably cost ten dollars.
“You know why you’re my favourite?” Granma asked with tired eyes.

“Because you’re a survivor and you know how to play defence” She hugged her and sat back down. “I love you very much…and please don’t let your cousin breed”

Those were their last words.
It’s amazing how defence comes across as a negative trait when it’s one of the most important primal aspects. Defend yourself, keep guard, be aware, watch out and don’t trust strangers. If we lived by all of these defence rules then we would never have fun, however, we would also never get hurt.
Her heart felt like tarp stretched thin over her chest. What to do?
Play defence.
You can’t risk an injury this early in the game as they’ll never let you back on the pitch.
You want to win right?

So think smart. Smarter not harder. We’re playing chess and it’s only the start. A pawn can still win.
She asked Dalila about her hair, as she had no idea of any common interests they may have. Dalila was willing to play and started talking about products and techniques. Then she did the usual female thing.
“But your hair is beautiful! How do you do it?!” she smiled, jeez those teeth were white.

She had to think for a second ”Ummm, wake up?” She stuttered whilst realizing that `perfect girls’ don’t always wake up perfect.
She could feel Michele trying not to look over. He must have been terrified. She made a few jokes about herself and soon enough Dalila was laughing. Michele walked over to them, nervously smiling at both.
“Ah, Tesoro” Dalila hummed while stroking his arm and looking up into his eyes. She was aware she still had power.

“Sal-ooo-tay” Dalila cheered as she walked away, still giggling but more relaxed.
“Hmmm, that’s, er, weird” He whispered into her ear.
“What?” She questioned, pretending to be oblivious to her contrived actions.
“Nobody, Noooooobody, ever likes Dalila and she doesn’t usually smile. At least not to other women.”
At that point, Elisa jumped onto a chair and they all waited for some philosophical preaching.
“Ragazzi! Abbiamo un obiettivo. E MARTEDI!” She commanded.
However, she was confused as it was Tuesday yesterday and the day before. Was every day a Tuesday? Everybody cheered and they marched up the hill.
“Now we go to see Andrea” He winked. Hang on, wasn’t that last place Andrea’s?

Andrea Poli.

Andrea was the brother of Jacopo Poli, who ran the world’s most famous Grappa distillery just up the road. However, today they were visiting him at the museum. Andrea was happy to see the huge group, probably because they brought pizza. The museum was full of copper cauldrons and explanations of the antique distilling techniques. The walls held pictures of how the business had started over a hundred years ago. A guy called Paolo with one cow, his kids got called Poli (Little Paolos) and from that one cow, he made enough money for one still. From one still, he built an empire. A lot of work over a lot of time.
A jeep pulled up outside the museum and started honking.
“Andrea!!!” The group of ten or so Alpini were chanting with bottles in hand.
“Zio Cane” Andrea sighed.
The Tuesday group walked out and the front of the museum became an actual party with trumpets and drums. Maybe everybody knew each other, maybe not, but she was getting lots of hugs from random strangers. Many different Grandads were grabbing her and calling her Sabrina, Elisa, Antonella, Francesca, Erica, Camilla and sometimes just ‘Tesoro’ as they had probably forgotten their own grandchild’s real name. She didn’t mind. She drifted away from Michele and was taking Soppressa and Merlot from anyone who offered it to her. Some of the younger Alpini, in their mid-forties, were taking a liking to her as she was one of few females around and foreign. She assumed that few foreigners made it this far into this group of Alpini. They looked silly in their lederhosen and feathered hats, but they were so friendly she found it adorable. Michele was a few metres away talking to Dalila. At the same time, she was being hauled into the back of the jeep. He glanced over and she gave him a forced smile and a thumbs up to signal that her mini kidnapping was fine and that she was in safe hands.


Now she was on the back of a jeep with eight men, a crate full of Salami and wine being passed around while they yelled badly translated Dad jokes at her. Her cheeks were hurting because she was laughing so hard and she looked back at Michele. He looked miserable. She decided she would not run to him and save him. She chose to sit there with Mauro, Mirko, Giorgio, Marco, Alvise, Italo, Eduardo, Luca and Pippo, the dog. None of which could pronounce her name properly.
They started yelling stories of the army barracks, the people who had been lost in combat and avalanches, the new Alpini who had to go through initiation, the naked nights spent in the snow and the random animals found in the headquarters. These men had fought and lived and survived through each other and yet they welcomed this random girl to join in their brotherhood and their love.
She looked back at Michele one more time as he stood in front of a pouting Dalila. She smiled and turned back into the brotherhood who were still trying to figure out how to pronounce her name.


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